A big step to take

Despite having no business experience, Vincent McKevitt has been able to build successful salad bar franchise Tossed in just four years

Armed with a degree in Business Administration, a handful of cookbooks and a passion to make healthy, delicious food for the masses, Vincent McKevitt founded salad bar franchise Tossed at just 24 after graduating from university.

Fast-forward four years and Vincent's long-term vision of owning a large, multiple unit business is taking shape with seven salad bars operating in his UK network (including flagships in Harrods 102 and Westfield London) two of which are franchised. His flair for business has also been recognised with the Tossed franchise put forward as a finalist for two award categories - the Enterprising Young Brits award and the Fast Growth business awards' Retail Business of the Year this year.

'I've always wanted to own a large business and I want this to be a national brand,' enthuses Vincent. 'There's no reason why there can't be as many Tossed salad bars as there are Pret a Mangers. Healthy eating isn't a niche market anymore!

'The Tossed salad bar concept came to me while I was studying at university. I used to go to various salad bars in delis to buy my lunch and thought it would be a cool idea to do a version for office workers where they could choose their salad ingredients. I came across the 'tossed to order concept' on a research trip to America and wanted to recreate it for the UK market. I didn't want to just sell salads, I wanted to create a healthy eating offering, so I brought in a number of other product categories including wraps, smoothies, stews and gave them all a healthy twist and a cool brand.'

'With regards to the awards it feels great to have our hard work recognised. I think Tossed was put forward for both awards because I set it up straight out of university with no prior business experience. Over the years Tossed has grown in popularity and we have become the leading healthy eating salad bar in the country.

'Becoming your own boss and operating your own business at a young age is a big step to take. However, I think its easier to start up a business when you are young because you have nothing to lose - the older you are, the more commitments you tend to have so the harder it is to take the step.'

In order to finance the business, Vincent sold his house which he had purchased as a student, and also took out a loan under the small firms loan agreement. Vincent has worked around the clock to establish his business and turn his vision into a reality. 'During the first year I did not take a holiday or even have a day off,' explains Vincent. 'Now it is a different story because we are established and have a great head office team in place, so if I want to have a day off I can.

'My future plans include opening another 30 Tossed venues by 2011 and expanding the business outside of London, across other major UK cities and Europe.'

Interview by Jess Sturman